Each year, D.C.-based chef José Andrés serves millions of meals — and not just to diners who visit his award-winning restaurants.
Since 2010, his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, has fed Haitians devastated by the catastrophic earthquake, Puerto Ricans ravaged by Hurricane Maria, and cyclone survivors in Mozambique.
It’s organized chefs in Ohio to cook for those without power after tornadoes, and coordinated community members in California to feed residents affected by wildfires.
Then, there are the man-made disasters: During the most recent government shutdown, Andrés’ organization served more than 100,000 hot meals to furloughed feds in D.C.; and since February, a team on the Colombia/Venezuela border has provided 400,000 meals to refugees fleeing unrest.
“We’ve been busy,” said World Central Kitchen Executive Director Nate Mook.
And emergency relief is just one focus of World Central Kitchen. The organization also oversees long-term projects, such as stabilizing food security in Puerto Rico and providing culinary education and job training to residents of Port-au-Prince.
So how does a nonprofit with fewer than 30 full-time employees manage to mobilize kitchens during disasters and oversee programming across the world? Mook said it’s all done through a network of chefs and volunteers.
“What we do is really tap into people who are there — the community that is affected,” Mook said. “Everywhere we work, there’s an incredible network of restaurants and chefs that are already there on the ground. Once they stabilize their own situation, they want to give back and see how they can help.”
On June 12, it’s the public’s turn to get involved. World Central Kitchen is hosting its annual fundraising event, Dine-N-Dash, where for $150, attendees can eat and drink at more than 30 D.C. restaurants — all without signing a single bill.
Participating restaurants are concentrated in the Penn Quarter, 14th Street and Wharf neighborhoods, and include Kith/Kin, Officina, Bresca, Estadio, Zaytinya and more. Want to try them all? Dine-N-Dash provides shuttles to transport diners to each neighborhood. The event also features a “WCK House” to highlight World Central Kitchen’s work around the globe.
“Obviously it’s a night to have fun and enjoy yourself, but we really want this to also be an opportunity for people to learn more about what we do, how they can potentially get involved,” Mook said.
“We work with thousands of volunteers every year, and so it’s a great way for folks to help out, especially if they’re able to during times of need in our country.”
The number of furloughed workers fed by World Central Kitchen during the government shutdown has been updated from the original post.